Two killed, eight injured in Spain chemical plant explosion

Clay Curtis
January 16, 2020

Officials in the region, which is home to a major chemical industry, have issued an emergency alert as a result of the explosion.

Hundreds of firefighters battled through the night to try and contain the blaze which erupted around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

The explosion is believed to have flung a large metal plate into the third floor of the apartment block 2km away, collapsing its floor and killing a man in the apartment below, the Tarragona authorities said in a statement.

Spokesman José Luis Morlanes said: "We deeply regret the loss of one of our co-workers and the suffering of those who are injured".

The Vall d'Hebron hospital in Barcelona then confirmed on Wednesday evening that a third person had died after suffering "extensive burns" in the blast, which sent flames and plumes of black smoke billowing for kilometres.

Researchers said the explosion was probably caused by a chemical accident. Rescuers resumed the search for the missing employee at daybreak.

According to the company's website, Iqoxe is Spain's sole producer of ethylene oxide, a chemical compound used for making detergents, solvents and other products, as well as glycol, one of the main raw materials in the production of plastics.

Residents have told a radio station that the explosion could be heard for miles around.

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"Nobody knew what was happening, if it was risky or not, if it was toxic".

A blast ripped through a factory in the Catalan city of Tarragona on Tuesday, with authorities advising residents of certain areas on the city to stay indoors.

"I also thought it was shocking that the sirens never went off".

The deputy head of the region's civil protection division accused IQOXE of dragging its feet in providing details about the incident, which led to delays in warning the public.

Some 30 fire engines were drafted in to try and contain the blaze and cool down the propylene oxide tank, the regional fire service said.

Although the substances at the plant were highly flammable, they were not toxic, with firefighters and the civil protection authority saying no toxicity had been detected in the surrounding area.

The service advised residents in parts of the city of 800,000 and in nearby towns to close their windows and to refrain from going outside as preventive measures.

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